CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn and the Serve Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service today announced the winners of the 2014 Governor’s Volunteer Service Award. The prestigious award recognizes volunteers and volunteer programs that have made a difference in Illinois, and highlights the importance of community service. Today’s announcement is a part of the Governor’s agenda to promote volunteerism and an ethic of service throughout Illinois.
“Every day across Illinois, thousands of volunteers donate their time and work hard to help others and build stronger communities,” Governor Quinn said. “Today we are honoring these individuals who donate their time to make our communities better and set an example for others with their initiative, creativity and energy.”
Today 23 individuals and four businesses were honored during a special reception at the Executive Mansion in Springfield. Awardees range from a 7th grader who bought laptops for disabled veterans to a retiree who tests water quality. Additionally, National Service Awards were presented to one Senior Corps member and one AmeriCorps volunteer in each region. This year marks the second time that the Business Volunteer Engagement Awards will be presented in each region.
The Governor’s Volunteer Service Awards focus on five areas: Economic Opportunity, Education, Environmental Conservation, Disaster Preparedness/Response, Health and Veterans’ Affairs. Individual awards in each of the commission’s five service regions (Northeast, Northwest, East Central, West Central and Southern Illinois) are presented in three categories: youth ages 18 and under, adults ages 19 to 54 and seniors ages 55 and older.
The Serve Illinois Commission is a 40-member, bipartisan board appointed by the Governor and administered by the Illinois Department of Human Services. Its mission is to improve Illinois communities by enhancing traditional volunteer activities and supporting national service programs, including the Illinois AmeriCorps program.
“Volunteerism is what makes life worth living, and I am proud to say that Illinois has a vast number of people that are working daily to improve all of our lives,” Serve Illinois Executive Director Brandon Bodor said. “Through Serve Illinois, we hope to expand volunteerism throughout rural, suburban and urban Illinois, and involve people of all backgrounds, cultures and ages.”
More than one in four Illinois residents volunteer at least once a year. The value of these volunteer efforts has been estimated at 286 million hours or $6.3 billion.
Below is a list of the 2014 Governor’s Volunteer Service Award recipients. Recipient biographies can be found on Serve Illinois’ website at Serve.Illinois.gov.
Southern Illinois Award Recipients
- Adult: Brent Miller – Ullin (Pulaski County)
For service to: Century High School
Through his volunteer work with 4-H and FFA, Brent Miller has hosted petting zoos, built bird feeders for an assisted living home and helped train an Illinois State Police K9 unit.
- AmeriCorps Member: Claudia Blackman – Carterville (Williamson County)
For service to: American Red Cross
A volunteer with the American Red Cross for 50 years, Claudia Blackman began as a lifeguard, and now volunteers to teach preparedness and disaster response courses.
- Senior: John Flora, Sr. – Carterville (Williamson County)
For service to: Thrift Store
After retiring in 2002, John Flora opened a thrift store to raise funds for his Create a Smile Foundation which helps low-income neighbors pay for dental work.
- Senior Corps Member: Geanette Wilson – Sparta (Randolph County)
For service to: IMPACK, Inc.
After retiring in 1997, Geannette Wilson started a math tutoring program called “Tutor Time Math” and now volunteers as full-time director of IMPACK, a social service agency serving 200 children.
- Youth: Nicole Doornink – Glen Carbon (Madison County)
For service to: ASAP Coalition
During her high school career, Nicole Doornink has organized bake sales for hungry children, raised
5,000 shoes for the Shoeman Water Project, volunteered in a soup kitchen and organized a 5K Race.
East Central Illinois Award Recipients
- Adult: Jeff Carns – Champaign (Champaign County)
For service to: Daily Bread Soup Kitchen
A University of Illinois accountant, Jeff Carns began volunteering at a local soup kitchen, and is now the weekend crew chief at Daily Bread Soup Kitchen, serving hot food to the hungry from their van.
- AmeriCorps Member: Rebecca Moss – Peoria (Peoria County)
For service to: Knox County Health Department
Monmouth native Rebecca Moss has volunteered as a Peace Corps member in Burkina Faso and as an AmeriCorps member in Knox County where she promotes volunteerism and public health.
- Business: Mr. John’s School of Cosmetology, Esthetics and Nails – Decatur (Macon)
For service to: Ronald McDonald House of Charities of Central Illinois
For 50 years, Mr. John’s has been giving to the community in the form of free haircuts for patients’ families at the Ronald McDonald House, a “Kiss a Pig” for cancer awareness event and blood mobiles.
- Senior: Jami Hemmenway – Eureka (Woodford County)
For service to: Eureka Christian Church
Eureka College English Professor Jami Hemmenway launched the Eureka SnackPak program, which provides 118 at-risk children with healthy sack meals so they won’t go hungry over the weekend.
- Senior Corps Member: Jack Sunderlik – Springfield (Sangamon County)
For service to: Dubois and McClernand Elementary Schools
A retired high school teach and coach, Jack Sunderlik spent two years volunteering as a “Foster
Grandfather” and now works with special needs children.
- Youth: Rebecca Wiggins – Decatur (Macon County)
For service to: United States Armed Forces
A 7th grader, “Becca” Wiggins is called the “Soldiers’ Angel” for sending personal notes and packages to soldiers and raising funds to buy laptops with voice-activated software for disabled veterans.
West Central Illinois Award Recipients
- Adult: Kassie Courson – Macomb (McDonough County)
For service to: McDonough County VIBE
Macomb native Kassie Courson founded VIBE (Volunteers Interested in Benefiting Everyone) in 2010, which has raised $346,000 for local not-for-profits and is a member of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s Committee.
- Business: CGB Diversified Services, Inc. – Jacksonville (Morgan County)
For service to: Jacksonville Community
CGB Diversified Services not only provides farmers with crop insurance, but their employees volunteer for “Bowl for Kids,” Salvation Army, homeless shelters, a food pantry and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
- Senior: Alex Cole – Jacksonville (Morgan County)
For service to: North Morgan Water Coop
A 34-year Air Force Reservist, Alex Cole has volunteered for Habitat for Humanity and the Boy Scouts, and now focuses his energy on testing water quality in wells across Morgan County.
- Senior Corps Member: Vi Heinz – Washington (Tazewell County)
For service to: Peoria Friendship House of Christian Service
Twice a week, Vi Heinz arrives at Unity Point Methodist Center at 5:30 a.m. to help transport patient around the hospital and assist with surgical prep work, then delivers food on behalf of Illinois Harvest.
- Youth: Hailea Hadsall – Macomb (McDonough County)
For service to: The First Tee of Western Illinois University
After seeing her family’s business destroyed by fire, Macomb High School student Hailea Hadsall embraced volunteerism, organizing a Philippines Typhoon Relief fundraiser and helping children learn life skills through golf.
North West Illinois Award Recipients
- Adult: Jeff Metheny – Rockford (Winnebago County)
For service to: Vietnam Veterans of America Post 984
After being wounded in Afghanistan, Jeff Metheny devotes his time to helping veterans navigate the VA benefits system and has delivered $1.5 million of surplus military clothing to homeless veterans.
- AmeriCorps Member: Ronald Happach – Sheffield (Bureau County)
For service to: LVI Jumpstart
A retired Sauk Valley College Professor of Industrial Education, Ron Happach tutors and mentors young people at the Illinois Youth Center in Kewanee.
- Business: Wal-Mart Distribution Center #7024 – Sterling (Whiteside and Lee Counties)
For service to: Whiteside and Lee Counties
Last year, Wal-Mart’s 900 employees donated 3,600 volunteer hours by doing home repairs for persons with disabilities, painting park benches and doing community beautification landscaping projects.
- Senior Corps Member: Laurie Tyler – Rock Island (Rock Island)
For service to: RSVP of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois
A longtime RSVP volunteer and tutor with the Black Hawk College “Literacy is For Everyone” (LIFE) program, Laurie Tyler is now tutoring other tutors in a tutor training program.
- Youth: Jenni Eastman – Kewanee (Henry County)
For service to: Sunshine Community Services Center
Wethersfield High School junior Jenni Eastman volunteers with the Stepladder Tutoring Program at Sunshine Community Services Center where she works with children with special needs.
North East Illinois Award Recipients
- Adult: Clayton Muhammad – Aurora
For service to: Boys II Men
City of Aurora Communications Director Clayton Muhammad founded ”Boys II Men” in 2002 to help at-risk youth achieve academic success, and now has chapters from Tampa to Australia.
- AmeriCorps Member: Da-Eun (Shira) Choi – Evanston (Cook County)
For service to: Heartland Health Outreach
An Illinois Public Health Association AmeriCorps member, Shira Choi has helped homeless people learn about their eligibility for Medicaid and navigate the health insurance marketplace.
- Business: Fifth Third Bank Chicago – Chicago (Cook County)
For service to: Chicagoland
With a history of community service dating back to 1948, Fifth Third Bank has sent care packages to troops, sponsored dogs to help veterans with brain injuries and donated $300,000 to fund scholarships for military families.
- Senior: Patrick Hayes – Woodstock (McHenry County)
For service to: Elgin Area Chamber
Through his work with the Elgin Chamber of Commerce, Fabric Images, Inc., founder Patrick Hayes has promoted workforce development by implementing WorkKeys, a job skills assessment progam.
- Senior Corps Member: Sharon Black – Joliet (Will County)
For service to: Catholic Charities
As a member of Catholic Charities Foster Grandparent program, Sharon Black volunteers at Joliet’s Woodland Elementary School where she is a reading and math tutor.
- Youth: Bradley Wilinski – Gurnee (Lake County)
For Service to: Tourette Syndrome Association of Illinois
Diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome at age seven, 7th grader Bradley Wilinski travels to schools and has even lobbied Congressmen to increase understanding of Tourette Syndrome.